Special Agent Jane Turner vs. The FBI

Before Coleen Rowley, another whistleblower rose from the ranks of the Minneapolis FBI division. Retired agent Jane Turner talks at length for the first time about the Bureau's good old boy management culture--and how it goes about silencing its internal

Once again Turner found herself outside the loop, working a token caseload that included little of any note. In February 2002, her supervisor forwarded Turner a minor case involving the alleged theft of items recovered from the ruins of the World Trade Center by employees of a Twin Cities-based private contractor hired to assist in the cleanup. "I don't anticipate we will do anything," he wrote, "but we will respond to [the FBI field office in] New York as requested." Turner launched an investigation of the company, during the course of which she came to believe that the Bureau's investigation might be compromised by its relationship with a retired FBI agent employed by the firm as a private investigator.

The terminal phase of Turner's long battle with management began that summer, when she noticed a striking Tiffany crystal globe on the desk of a Minneapolis division secretary. Where had she gotten it? Turner asked. It was a Ground Zero souvenir, the secretary explained, given to her by a member of the FBI's own recovery team.

Turner informed her supervisor. Two weeks later, with the globe still sitting on the same desk, Turner and an agent from the Federal Emergency Management Agency bagged and tagged it as evidence and flew to Washington, D.C., to present it to the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General.

A month later, Turner was suspended for the second and last time, pending proceedings to fire her. Her supervisor wrote on her final performance review, "SA Turner does not meet expectations... She has tarnished the FBI's reputation with FEMA and USAO [the U.S. Attorney's office] by telling them the MP [Minneapolis] FBI office is corrupt and leaks information."

But if Turner was gone, she was hardly forgotten. Some months later, she received an anonymous letter, apparently from someone at the local FBI division, indicating that she had become a poster child for the wrath of management: During the 2002 office Christmas party, "your picture was displayed on the overhead screen in front of the entire division, while [an office staffer] made negative remarks about you... The SAC and others have made numerous negative public remarks about you... Your photograph has been displayed to the division with jokes made on more than one occasion..."

"They used me to teach a lesson to anyone else who might ever think of stepping out of line," Turner says now.

After another 12 months of legal machinations, Turner formally retired from the FBI a year ago this month. Now 53, she is pursuing multiple lawsuits against her former employers on grounds that include job discrimination, violation of her privacy, and violations of the federal Whistleblower Protection Act. Last month, as this story was being written, one of Turner's suits was dismissed by a local U.S. District Court judge on the grounds that the FBI had already performed an "independent and objective" evaluation of her claims. Turner, who says the FBI report in question contains demonstrable falsehoods about her, plans to appeal the ruling. "This is not the first nor the last time," she says pointedly, "that the FBI has provided the judicial system with documents that they manufactured and knew to be false."

(The Minneapolis FBI office, asked to comment on the claims in Turner's lawsuits, had not done so by the time this story went to press.)

 

City Pages:You were working in the Minot office when you began voicing criticisms to management about how the FBI did things. What were the cases in point?

Jane Turner: The very first thing was an EEO [Equal Employment Opportunity, or job discrimination] complaint when I saw that there was a pre-selection of management positions in the FBI, and that there was a pattern of lower performance ratings for female agents out in Indian country, even though the female agents' work was sometimes superior to that of the males. We seemed to be handling a disproportionate amount of sexual crimes--child abuse, rape, things like that. So it was almost like we were being punished for handling some of the hardest, most distasteful crimes in our division.

I demanded a certain standard of investigatory procedure among other FBI agents in these cases of sexually abused children on Indian reservations. As SRA, I had certain duties in that particular territory for two Indian reservations, Fort Berthold and Turtle Mountain. I had the expertise and the background to create and run successful programs and get convictions of offenders in child sex abuse cases. I saw that some of my fellow FBI agents did not have the expertise, the enthusiasm, or the desire to pursue those cases, and in fact were closing or not responding to some child sex abuse situations.

There was one case that was formally closed by the investigating agent even though it absolutely made no sense. I had run across situations like this more than once. Agents didn't feel these cases were worth their time. I also got a sense they felt that those victims were not worthy of service.

CP:When did you begin to go toe-to-toe with your bosses about their handling of certain cases?

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